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In over 17 years of service, we’ve unfortunately come across cases where homeowners have fallen victim to scammers.
Some chimney scams are overt (e.g. people who aren’t even in the industry receiving payment for a product or service that isn’t delivered). Other scams take the form of overstated or deceptive claims about knowledge and credentials that lead to shoddy work.
In an industry that isn’t nationally regulated, this is a risk – and one we don’t want you to fall victim to. Either way, you aren’t getting what you deserve, and your chimney system can be compromised.
To avoid low-quality work, dangerous situations, and wasted money, it’s important for homeowners to be aware of common chimney scams and how to avoid them.
One scam involves the “chimney sweep” who shows up uninvited. The fraudulent sweep shows up at your door claiming they noticed a problem with your chimney while driving by. They may offer a low price for the work, but the resulting service is often subpar or even non-existent.
Never allow a chimney sweep to work on your chimney system without first verifying their identity, credentials, and insurance. The sweep you hire should work for a real company with a real, physical location. He should be able to show verification of his credentials and insurance if requested.
What do credentials demonstrate? If a sweep is CSIA certified, it means that they’ve been examined by a board of volunteer industry experts committed to the well-being of the trade by passing a rigorous exam. Sweeps must recertify every three years, so the knowledge and skill set required to do the job stays fresh. And the CSIA holds its certified sweeps to a high standard of ethical conduct. Additionally, memberships in professional associations show an established commitment to continuing education, knowledge of the most recent technology and safety standards, and customer service.
Why is validating insurance important? You should never hire a company that can’t prove they carry general liability insurance and worker’s comp. If they aren’t insured and someone is hurt while working at your home, or if damage to your home occurs, you may end up shouldering the cost and legal burden.
In addition to checking into certifications and insurance, never let someone work on your property without investigating online reviews to ensure the chimney sweep has a track record of quality work.
Another scam involves the “chimney inspection” that turns into a costly repair. Don’t get me wrong – one of the functions of a chimney inspection is to identify potential safety issues or maintenance needs as early as possible. But a common scam is offering a bargain-priced inspection… which leads to a claim that your chimney requires repairs that will cost far more. This can include unnecessary repairs, such as relining a chimney or replacing the entire chimney cap when the components still have plenty of life left in them.
First, verify what the chimney inspection will involve before it begins. Is it just a guy with a flashlight looking up, or will current technology, such as scanners or internal viewing cameras in the chimney, be employed? Will pictures be taken to evidence the necessity of the repairs being suggested? Will the sweep be getting on the roof to inspect all visible components?
Next, ask for a detailed report of the inspection findings and repairs needed. A qualified sweep will provide this information, answer questions about work and pricing transparently, and never pressure you into making a decision on the spot.If you are uncomfortable, go with your gut and do more research.
Remember that fraudsters often use heavy-handed techniques – claiming there’s imminent danger or pressuring you with too-good-to-be-true deals that expire quickly. But remember that claims should be verifiable. If a chimney sweep says that you have high levels of carbon monoxide, ask for a reading. If there’s extensive damage, there should be evidence.
The “chimney cleaning” that creates a mess. An inexperienced, unqualified sweep can yield a messy, incomplete sweeping or repair. The scammer may not use the correct tools or techniques, yielding a mess in your living space without significantly reducing creosote and debris in your chimney or properly completing repairs. This is not only a waste of your time, energy, and money, but also leaves behind a hazardous situation.
As with any service, check credentials of any sweep you’re planning to employ for the first time. Then, ask in advance what the sweeping process will entail. A reputable sweep will be well equipped for the task and attentive to detail.
Some home care and maintenance needs are obvious to the naked eye, but it can be hard to know when there’s a problem with your chimney. Yet an issue fixed improperly – or left unfixed – can yield costly damages and create health and safety risks. If you want the peace of mind that comes from knowing your chimney work was done well by a qualified technician, be sure your sweep can back up his claims.
Remember what you’re looking for: an established business in a physical location, certifications and professional memberships, satisfied customers, and sufficient, up-to-date insurance coverage. Don’t compromise because a reputable service provider is booked far out (that’s probably a good sign) or because an unproven sweep is offering a bottom-dollar deal (that’s probably a bad sign).
And remember that we’re here to help! We have a wealth of industry knowledge and experience, and even if you don’t use our services, we want you to be equipped to make an informed decision that will serve you and your family well. Call today or book online to schedule an appointment.